The United States Supreme Court upheld the stay of an Arkansas inmate’s execution just hours before he was slated to die on Monday evening.
The decision not to override the Arkansas Supreme Court’s stay of Don Davis’ execution comes as the state desperately tries to move forward with its attempt to execute eight people in 10 days, before its cache of execution drugs expires on May 1. (The state Supreme Court had also stayed the execution of a second inmate, Bruce Ward.)
The Supreme Court’s ruling came down just 15 minutes before Davis’ death warrant was set to expire, and after Davis, who was convicted of murder more than 25 years ago, had already eaten what he chose as his final meal: fried chicken, rolls, great northern beans, mashed potatoes, and strawberry cake, according to CNN. Witnesses were also reportedly being shuffled into the execution chamber when the decision was released.
The central issue in all eight cases is whether midazolam, one of the drugs used in lethal injection, sufficiently numbs an inmate to the pain of the other drugs used to kill them. The drug has been linked to horrifically botched executions in Arizona, Alabama, and Oklahoma.
But, as The New York Times reports, Davis’ life was spared over another issue entirely:
...whether he should be executed as the United States Supreme Court considers a case about whether poor defendants with mental health problems are entitled to expert witnesses to aid them in preparing and presenting their cases.
Despite the legal setback, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge vowed to push forward with five other executions, including those of Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson, which are scheduled for Tuesday.